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Food security improves with the start of the harvest

  • Food Security Outlook
  • South Sudan
  • October 2012 - March 2013
Food security improves with the start of the harvest

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • The main season harvest has begun across South Sudan, resulting in improved access to food in most areas of the country. At the national level, a near-average harvest is expected. While average to good harvests are expected in the Equatorias, Lakes, and Western Bahr el Ghazal states, below-average harvests are likely in Jonglei, Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Warrap states due to excessive flooding and reduced cultivation due to earlier displacement. On the mechanized farms of Renk (Upper Nile), a below-average harvest is expected due to reduced area planted and lack of agricultural inputs.

    • Cross-border trade is expected to resume between Sudan and South Sudan following the recent peace agreements. Sudan has announced intentions to export sorghum to South Sudan, a move that would significantly improve cereal availability in South Sudan and stabilize market prices. Though well above the long-term average, food prices have started to fall in line with seasonal trends, and are likely to continue to decline through January 2013.

    • The main areas of concern include Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei states, where mostly Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of food insecurity will persist through the Outlook period due to the impacts of flooding, above-average prices, and needs of displaced and refugee populations, with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels in parts of Unity State in January to March.  Crisis levels will also be present in Abyei and in Pibor County (Jonglei) through the Outlook period due to the impacts of displacement on asset levels and food and income sources. Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) is expected over the Outlook period in most parts of the greater Equatoria states.  

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    Mixed food security outcomes are present in South Sudan. While significant improvements have been observed in the Equatorias since the beginning of October, slight to modest improvements have taken place in the rest of the country.

    Favorable seasonal rainfall has increased prospects for good agricultural production in parts of the country, though a below-average to average harvest is expected in other areas. In the Greenbelt and Hills and Mountains livelihood zones, which have bimodal rainfall and two growing seasons, average harvests are expected in Eastern Equatoria State, and above-average harvests are expected in Western and Central Equatoria states. However, in Jonglei, Unity, Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap states, significant flooding displaced thousands, inundated crops, and affected more than 260,000 people between June and September. Below-average harvests are expected in these areas.

    Although staple food prices have started to decline following the start of harvests, they remain significantly above average. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the annual increase in the consumer price index (CPI) in September was 42.9 percent higher than last year, driven by high food prices.

    Internal conflicts resulting from inter-ethnic tensions and cattle raiding have declined following disarmament and peace conferences, though a large displaced population remains. However, the resurgence of armed militia in Pibor county of Jonglei state is threatening stability and local livelihoods. Since the start of the year, 167,931 people have been displaced as a result of conflict across the country, with the highest number in Jonglei State, following by, in decreasing order, Unity, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Western Bahr el Ghazal states.

    The good rainfall has replenished water and pasture, leading to improved livestock conditions and milk availability in pastoral and agro-pastoral zones. Prolonged water availability this year will lead to delayed migration of livestock to dry season grazing areas in January, compared to December in a typical year. Availability and access to milk will therefore begin to decline in January, once herders leave homesteads.


    The most likely scenario for October 2012 to March 2013 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Harvest: As noted, an overall near-average harvest is expected at the national level.
    • Sudan/South Sudan agreements: On September 27, South Sudan and Sudan signed agreements on oil, trade and security. Although formal trade has not begun following Sudan’s announcement of the resumption of sorghum exports to South Sudan, informal trade flows have increased. The agreement is likely to improve bilateral relations, security and trade along the border, leading to increased availability of basic commodities and stabilized prices. Income through cross-border labor migration is also expected to increase. The macro-economic situation will improve when oil production resumes in the coming months.
    • Food prices: The ongoing harvest and the recent agreement with Sudan are expected to result in significant price reductions. Prices of staple foods are expected to decline during the harvest period while the price of white sorghum is likely to fall when trade flows with Sudan resume.
    • Refugees/displaced populations: A continued influx of refugees from Sudan is expected as the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states continues. Internal displacement due to cattle raiding and militia activities is also expected to heighten in Jonglei state later during the dry season. Typically, conflicts related to competition for resources and cattle rustling start in March and peak between April and June.
    • Humanitarian Assistance: With improved road access in December as the dry season begins, humanitarian organizations will have greater capacity to respond to needs among refugees and the displaced. Humanitarian assistance will continue to be a key food source for IDPs and refugees in Maban County (Upper Nile State) and Pariang County (Unity State). More than 175,000 refugees and newly displaced persons will require humanitarian assistance through the entire scenario period.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Food security outcomes will improve across South Sudan through most of the Outlook period. During the outlook period, own production is expected to be the main source of food and income for most households. The main areas of concern include Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei states, where mostly Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of food insecurity will persist through the Outlook period due to the impacts of flooding, above-average prices, and needs of displaced and refugee populations, with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels among refugee populations in parts of Unity State from January to March.  Displaced and refugee populations in these areas would likely be at a higher phase of insecurity without humanitarian assistance. 

    Food security outcomes will begin to deteriorate around March, marking an early start to the lean season in some areas with large displaced and refugee populations. During the second half of the scenario period, own production is expected to decline and markets will start to serve as a major food source for poor households. As food stocks of poor households dwindle, livestock will begin to migrate to dry season grazing lands around January and fishing activities will diminish in February/March, resulting in reduced food consumption. Poor households will engage in collection and sale of wild foods, grass, firewood and charcoal for food and income, and will increasingly face Stressed levels of food insecurity. Crisis levels will be present in Abyei and in Pibor County (Jonglei) through the Outlook period due to the impacts of displacement on asset levels and food and income sources.

    Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) is expected over the Outlook period in most parts of the greater Equatoria states due to the likely above-average harvests in these areas. Most parts of Western Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile and Lakes states will experience Minimal levels of acute food insecurity, and in Warrap, Minimal and Stressed levels will be prevalent. 

    Areas of Concern

    Western Flood Plains

    Northern Behr el Ghazal (Aweil North and East), Warrap (Twic, Gogrial West and East) and Unity (Abiemnhom and Mayom)

    Current Situation

    Flooding: In October, heavy rains continued in the Western Flood Plains, resulting in above-average flooding in low lying areas of Warrap, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Lakes states. The flooding occurred when most of the short-cycle sorghum, maize, sesame and groundnuts crops passed the most critical stage of growth, resulting in minimal or no impact on crops. However, yields could be reduced for late planted crops and long-maturing sorghum, the main staple crop for this livelihood zone.

    Food Prices: Prices of staple foods have started to decline but remain substantially above average in key markets. For example, a malwa (3.5 kg) of sorghum cost SSP 19in Bentiu (Unity State) in September, 17 percent less than in August but 76 percent higher than the long-term average (2007-2011). In Aweil (Northern Bahr el Ghazal) sorghum was SSP 13.5 per malwa, which is 29 percent lower than last month but 88 percent higher than the long-term average.

    Livestock migration and water availability: Increased access to pasture and water has improved animal body conditions and milk availability. However, livestock diseases such as Black Quarter (BQ), Anthrax, and Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) have been reported in Tonj North County of Warrap state. Livestock prices are also higher than average for this time of year, though livestock sales are seasonably low, as households typically sell livestock later in the season when the harvest is over, when there is a greater need to purchase food.

    Displaced populations from Abyei: In Twic county of Warrap state, the presence of the displaced from Abyei continues to put pressure on resources. Most IDPs did not cultivate, and food assistance continues to play a significant role in their food basket. Unlike earlier assumptions, return of the displaced to Abyei has slowed due to security concerns. Smaller family sizes in Abyei suggest that able-bodied household members have returned to cultivate and rebuild homes, leaving some household members behind in Agok area, presumably school-age children and the elderly. About 280 households in Aweil South County received emergency food assistance in September.

    Poor households in the Western Flood Plain livelihood zone are at Stressed levels (IPC Phase 2) of food insecurity. Food assistance plays an important role in maintaining the food security of the IDPs that make up a large proportion of the population in Twic County. Overall, the northern parts of the zone affected by border tensions and severe flooding face Stressed levels, with Crisis levels in Abyei. Most of the southern parts of the livelihood zone not affected by the shocks experience no or minimal levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 1).

    • Even though rainfall was above average over the course of the season, harvests are expected to be below average to average due partly to displacement earlier in the season and excessive flooding. Own production will play a significant role as a food source but will start to decline in March for poor households, which is about one month shorter than in a normal year.

    Pasture and water availability: Pasture and water availability is expected to last beyond the usual period; therefore delaying livestock migration to dry season grazing lands. This will ensure access to milk through January and reduce conflict incidences resulting from competition over resources.

    • In Warrap, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity and parts of Lakes states in the Western Flood Plain livelihood zone, fishing is especially important for poor and middle groups. Increased availability of fish this year is expected due to the above normal flooding. Food and income sources through fishing are expected to increase during the October to December period, but to decline beginning in January as flood waters recede.

    Market access and prices: Currently most markets in the Western Flood Pain livelihood zone have been isolated due to the impassable roads resulting from heavy rains, exacerbating already low stocks due to the trade blockade, particularly affecting Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity and Warrap states. Movement and market supplies will remain restricted from October to November due to poor road conditions.  This is likely to drive prices upward in affected areas, though road access will improve in December as the rains stop, leading to improved access to markets and increased supply.

    Food assistance: During the October – February period, food assistance will be confined mainly to life saving emergency responses for displaced people and refugees; whereas beginning in March, as food consumption declines, targeted food assistance for vulnerable residents becomes important to protect livelihoods. IDPs from Abyei in Twic county of Warrap state and those who have returned to Abyei area will continue to rely on food assistance as the main food source.

    Household income: During the harvest period, households will sell part of their crops in December and January to obtain complementary goods and services. Sale of milk among agro-pastoral households will also be an important source of income in the Western Flood Plains. As sales of own crops and milk diminish in the dry season, poor households will scale up sales of firewood, grass and charcoal during January to March.

    Labor migration: Many households typically migrate to Sudan for labor during the November to April period for both agricultural and non-agricultural labor opportunities; however, this movement has been greatly restricted by the border closure and border tensions.  Re-opening of the border is expected to encourage households in Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Unity and Warrap states to re-commence seasonal migration to Sudan for labor, provided that border security improves.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Although the harvest is expected to be close to average and food consumption is expected to improve, poor and displaced households are expected to marginally meet their food consumption needs during the scenario period. Availability of fish, milk and wild foods will improve consumption from October to December, after which period milk and fish availability will decline. Improvement for the poor households is expected to be short-lived as their food stocks will not last later than February/March because this group often cultivates smaller areas of about one acre.

    While areas in the Western Flood Plains zone affected by floods and earlier border conflict will be at Stressed levels of food insecurity, other areas will experience no or minimal levels of food insecurity from October to December. During January to March, Stressed levels will be more prevalent. In Abyei, returning households will continue to face food consumption gaps due to disrupted livelihoods, low income sources and high food prices and significantly reduced production. Households will continue to rely on food assistance to meet basic food needs.  Households in Abyei will face Stressed levels of food insecurity from October to December and Crisis levels from January to March.

    Eastern Flood Plain: Jonglei (Akobo, Uror and Ayod county); Upper Nile State (Maban, Manyo, Maiwut and Nasir) and Unity State (Pariang County)

    Current Situation

    Refugees: There are 175,709 Sudanese refugees in Upper Nile and Unity states. Humanitarian agencies continue to provide food assistance for over 110,055 Sudanese refugee in Upper Nile (Doro, Jamman, Batil, Gendrassa) and over 65,654 in Unity state (Yida, Pariang, Nyeel) refugee sites. Access to remote areas, especially Pariang and Maban counties, has been constrained by above-average flooding.  As a result, humanitarian agencies have continued to airdrop food assistance to 65,654 Sudanese refugees in Nyeel (963), Pariang (1,223) and Yida (63,468). Malnutrition among the refugees is above the emergency threshold. Food assistance remains the main food source for refugees.

    Floods: Counties including Maiwut, Nasir and Maban of Upper Nile; Uror, Ayod, and Akobo East of Jonglei; and parts of Unity state (Pariang) have been affected by heavy flooding, disrupting access to markets and humanitarian assistance.  About 125,000 people were affected by flooding in Jonglei between August and September.


    Harvests: Short-cycle sorghum has been harvested but the long-cycle sorghum harvest is expected to take place between October and January. A below-average harvest is expected in the Eastern Flood Plain livelihood zone for maize and sorghum. An earlier than normal lean season is expected and poor households and the IDPs are expected to experience food consumption gaps as early as March.

    Markets: Although market purchases decline this time of the year, they continue to play an important food source for most households, second to own production, although the livelihood zone has few markets. Following the closure of the Sudan/South Sudan border, traders shifted to Ethiopia for food supplies. Although the poor road network and reduced access due to insecurity and flooding have negatively impacted market functioning, prices started to stabilize following the start of the harvest in September. Prices are expected to decline further with the ongoing harvest and the anticipated re-opening of the border with Sudan.

    Income sources: Poor households will rely mostly on fish sales from October to December, and income from petty trade, and sale of fish and game meat between January and March. Sales of grass, firewood and charcoal are also expected to increase from January through March. Income from agricultural wage labor (harvesting) is an important source of income between October and December. Most poor households are expected to engage in construction related activities from January to March. During February to March, sales of own crops decline.

    Food assistance: Assistance will be the main source of food for refugees in Maban and Pariang counties of Upper Nile and Unity states, respectively, and a significant source of food for IDPs in Jonglei.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Food consumption is expected to temporarily improve during the harvest period. With the ongoing harvest, fish and milk availability, poor households will face no or minimal levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 1), though refugees in Maban and Pariang counties will face Stressed levels from October to December. Poor households are expected to deplete their stocks of own crops in March and milk availability will also decline as livestock migrate in January. As a result, market purchase, wild foods and fish will be the primary sources of food. With limited income, households will be unable to fully meet their staple food needs, resulting in a significant reduction in consumption of these foods beginning in March. While other areas will face Stressed levels of food insecurity from January to March, refugee settlements will face Crisis levels during the same period.

    Pastoral livelihood zone: Jonglei (Pibor County)

    Pibor county of Jonglei state has experienced multiple shocks this year. Earlier in the year thousands of people were displaced, and the situation has been compounded by recent heavy floods. A resurgence of armed militia in the area has undermined the relative stability and threatened livelihoods and food security. Insecurity has prevented humanitarian access to date. An estimated 9,000 people have been displaced from Lekuangole and Gumruk. While the rest of the livelihood zone faces Stressed levels of food insecurity, the affected population in Lekuangole and Gumruk areas of Pibor County faces Crisis levels (IPC Phase 3).

    The current tension is likely to continue and possibly worsen, given ease of movement during the dry season. Humanitarian access to the affected population will continue to be restricted during the scenario period. With continuous displacement, these communities did not cultivate and they will face significant food consumption gaps. As a result, Lekuangole and Gumruk areas will continue to experience Crisis levels of food insecurity throughout the scenario period.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook



    Impact on food security outcomes

    Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, Unity and Upper Nile, Western Bahr el Ghazal

    Failure to implement the recent agreement

    Economic situation will deteriorate, prices will rise exorbitantly, and tension will increase along the border areas with intermittent clashes. 

    Restricted labor opportunities and trade will continue. Loss of income through migratory labor will continue even worsening food access for households who normally rely on migration for labor as the main source of income.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, October 2012

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, October 2012

    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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